Sunday, February 20, 2011

Larabars - are they for real?!

Recently I've been eating Larabars prior to the odd workout, and sometimes as a quick snack. They're marketed as a fruit and nut energy bar that's gluten free, dairy free, soy free, non GMO, vegan and kosher.

Larabar ingredient list (Apple)
Clif Bar ingredients (Carrot cake) for comparison
The relative simplicity of the ingredient list intrigues me. Take a look for yourself -- I'm no health food nut, but superficially I think it's fairly obvious which list appears more appealing -- and healthier. 

Honestly, if you had to eat one a day, which would you pick as safer to digest? You'd need a degree in chemistry to understand some of the Clif bar contents.

And I like Clif bars! Carrot cake is my favourite! And ergocalciferol is good for you! Supposedly. Despite views questioning its efficacy.

I'm a tad suspicious because Larabars are ultimately manufactured by General Mills -- the same folks who bring you trusted food brands such as Lucky Charms, Count Chocula, Pillsbury Doughboy, and other foodstuffs whose sheer artificiality serves as a striking demonstration of the advancement of human food sciences.

Is it possible that when General Mills bought Humm Foods (the makers of Larabar), they let them continue to operate as an independent unit and therefore left the production process unchanged? One can only hope.

(In googling the history of Larabar and its founder, Lara Merriken, I came across proponents of the Raw Food Movement who denounced the transaction, comparing the purchase of a General Mills Larabar to 'buying something wholesome from a subsidiary of Philip Morris, the infamous tobacco company'. While I don't share the sentiment entirely, I don't think it's unreasonable to question the completeness of the descriptive packaging.)

Larabar - is this for real?

As an active recreational athlete, I tend to consume various energy bars, gels, powders, and so forth for a number of reasons, such as the quest for a dollop of extra performance, or to keep me from feeling hungry during a session (whether they're effective or not is a different story!). A constant problem I've found with energy bars in general, is that they taste like cardboard. Larabars, on the other hand, seem to work for me taste-wise. They taste decent and I enjoy their moist texture -- they go down very easily. I'd say they're adequate -- not delicious, but good enough.

They're also a bit expensive, but if you search around you can find acceptable bulk prices.

What I want to know is -- are Larabars legit? Or have I been seduced by a finely honed marketing brand? Should I really just be having a banana instead? Despite my skepticism, they seem to be a quality product -- so for now, Larabars are my energy bar of choice.

Comments welcome...

ps. Yes, I know it's spelled LĂ„RABAR. But who knows how to insert that umlaut?! It's beyond me.

pps. And yes, I do realize if you actually read the Clif Bar ingredients, they claim 70% organic content, and the non-organic stuff is all the 'Vitamins and Minerals', which makes it ostensibly much more palatable in terms of artificiality. The difference nevertheless serves to underscore the power of a clear marketing message in shaping consumer perception.